Monday, April 15, 2013

Should God Be Our Therapist?

Yesterday, the New York Times published a second op ed essay by T.M. Luhrmann, a Stanford Anthropologist, on the subject of evangelical Protestantism. In the second essay,  titled "When God is Your Therapist," Luhrmann argued that evangelical Protestants have a therapeutic relationship with God that mainstream Protestants and Catholics don't have.
Professor T.M. Lurhmann
Should God be our therapist?
Lurhmann believes that evangelicals do not seek an answer to the problem of evil.  Rather, in the words of an evangelical she interviewed, they just want to "hang out" with Him.

In Luhrmann's opinion, the evangelical approach to  the age-old problem of reconciling evil with a  benevolent God "is not really available to mainstream Protestants and Catholics, who do not imagine a God so intimate, so loving, so much like a person."

Such pretentious nonsense. On what basis does Luhrmann conclude that evangelical Protestants have a more loving, intimate relationship with God than other Christians?

Apparently, Luhrmann has not read the literature of Catholic mysticism or the biographies of the martyrs. If Luhrmann had read the Catholic mystics--St. Teresa of Avila or St.John of the Cross, for example--she would know that the Catholic mystics had a deeply intimate and personal relationship with God, some people might even say shockingly intimate.  And if she read the biographies of the Catholic martyrs--Edith Stein, Thomas Moore, Maximilian Kolbe, and others--she would know that the martyrs did not give up their lives for an impersonal God or an impersonal faith.

Of course, most everyday American Catholics are not mystics, and (so far, at least) they are not martyrs. Nevertheless, I feel confident that I know a lot more Catholics than Professor Luhrmann knows;  and I can say for a certainty that the relationship between God and many individual American Catholics is as strong, as intimate, and as personal as any Christian group's.  Indeed, what could be more intimate that the Eucharist--when Catholics eat Christ's body and drink his blood?

Professor Luhrmann may know a lot about evangelical Protestantism, at least from an anthropologist's perspective. And she may even know a lot about Catholicism. Nevertheless, she missed the mark when she off-handedly suggested that evangelical Protestants experience God in a more intimate and personal way than Catholics.

References

T.M. Luhrmann. How Skeptics And Believers Can Connect. New York Times, April 7, 2013, Sunday Review Section, p. 12.

T.M. Luhrmann, "When God Is Your Therapist." New York Times, April 14, 2013, Sunday Review Section p. 11.

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